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Maori flag, so what?

Written By: - Date published: 9:34 am, December 15th, 2009 - 46 comments
Categories: maori party - Tags:

I’m fine with a flag representing Maori flying on Waitangi Day.

Some argue there are constitutional concerns with flying a flag representing Maori self-determination next to the New Zealand flag. They say it implies (as Pita Sharples seems to believe) two separate sovereign powers in this country, the Government of New Zealand and Maoridom (represented by the Maori Party?), where the usual constitutional understanding has been that the Government of New Zealand is the product of the Treaty between Maoridom and the British Crown.

Others argue that the Te Tino Rangatiratanga flag doesn’t really represent all Maori. Sharples only offered four choices – the flag of the United Tribes, the New Zealand Flag, the New Zealand Ensign, and TTR. The first is the flag of only some iwi and the next two were joke options. TTR was the only real option, but that doesn’t change the fact that it has represented one strain of Maori activism until this point and is the flag of the Maori Party. It smacks of arrogance for the Government to rename TTR the ‘Maori flag’ and decide that it represents all Maori.

Look at that cloth flutter

Look at that cloth flutter

I’m not really interested in the symbolism. I’m more concerned that this is it. This is the biggest thing the Maori Party has managed to deliver, the only pay-back for all the selling out. A piece of cloth to flutter in the breeze. Sharples says this shows that the Government values Maori and will incorporate their interests in decision-making. Which is just more meaningless symbolism. I’d rather see them doing something real about the 100,000 Maori Sharples says are out of work. I’d rather see Maori representation in the supercity.

So, it’ll be nice to have the flag fly. Whether it’s the right flag is another question, that Sharples didn’t really let Maoridom have the chance to answer. But let’s not pretend this changes anything – this Government is failing Maori and all Kiwis, apart from the wealthy, and the Maori Party is supporting that.

46 comments on “Maori flag, so what? ”

  1. Neil 1

    “is the flag of the Maori Party.”

    Eddie, do you have evidence for that? I’ve never seen it on the Maori Party website.

    “It smacks of arrogance for the Government to rename TTR the ‘Maori flag’ and decide that it represents all Maori.”

    Rename? haven’t you git that a bit round the wrong way? I’m just going by the TPK site –


    This was adopted after a consultation process where 80% opted for it. Such desisions will aways be a little controversial and arbitrary so 80% is pretty good. And it doesn’t mean that the United Tribes flag is no longer flown at Waitangi.

    • Zaphod Beeblebrox 1.2

      Have you seen Hone’s panel van in West Auckland? Its got 6-8 TTR’s hanging out the windows.

      Good on him for the branding and marketing he has done for his Party. But its a bit hard now to turn around and say it’s not identified with the Maori Party.

    • Winston Smith 1.3

      Edward blockhead, your diatribe is didactically incorrect.

      It wasn’t the Government who renamed the Tino Rangatiratanga flag the ‘Maori flag’ and decide that it represents all Maori. It was in fact Pita Sharples

      If you recall the first hui at Te Puea Marae in Auckland to find a flag all Maori can agree on to represent tangata whenua, he pointed out that critics underestimate the good that will come from having a flag to unite iwi and hapu.

      Sharples said “having a flag under which Maori can rally is really, really, really important. People might just see it as a shallow thing, but the reality is we do not fly our flag so it’s about recognition. This is a chance to have our own flag, and the respect it will give and the mana it will give back to Maori is vital.’

      His comments are clear to even the least observant of critics that the flag that is chosen represents Maori – ipso facto TRR’s now the Maori Flag.

  2. Bill 2

    “…that the Government values Maori and will incorporate their interests….”

    heh- was that deliberate use of language or one of those slip thingy jigs?

  3. Anne 3

    This is the lead story in today’s Herald and Shane Jones is reported as saying:

    “The Maori Party’s entire style of politics is trophies and trinkets. The flag is a
    trinket showing how easily the Maori Party can be bought off”.

    Well put Shane Jones! What is worse, the trophies are only for themselves and their corporate iwi mates. They have snubbed the rest of their own people for personal gain.

  4. tf 4

    Can any political party fly their flag from the harbour Bridge now ?

  5. fizzleplug 5

    This is no more the flag of the Maori Party than the Hammer and Sickle is the flag of the Labour Party.

    Small victory from your point of view perhaps, but I’m sure it means a lot to some people.

  6. Neil 6

    so that’s the evidence? a photo of Hone with the flag? that so much makes it the Maori Party flag.

    out of interest, did the Labour Party ever object to the range of flags that were under consideration? or is that just a post Goff dog whislte thing?

    It’s pretty clear that Labour’s strategy is to try and smear the flag and try and stir up discontent.

    • How is that clear Neil? What just because you say so or you have some evidence that the Labour Party is anti the Flag.

      Please front up I would love to see your evidence.

      • Neil 6.1.1

        no worries, from Shane Jones –

        “What I object to is this flag has been foisted upon us. It’s really Hone’s flag”


        which is a lie. The flag predates the Maori Party.

        And Labour never made this objection til now – they had plenty of opportunity to do so during the consoltation process.

        • Lew

          In fact, Labour isn’t objecting — Shane Jones is objecting.

          Phil Goff has indicated he is relaxed (heh) about the choice.


          • Neil

            a couple of weeks ago I would have given Goff the benefit of the doubt. I had never criticised him before. but now he just belittles the whole thing while others do the dirty work.

            it is of major symbolic importance and once again Labour opts to march backwards in history.

            • Lew

              Neil, you know, I’m no more of a fan of Phil Goff than you are, but I just don’t see any grounds for criticising him here. He’s taken a leaf from Key’s book and decided to buy out of this battle, and it’s extremely wise of him to do so — he can’t come out of it looking good.

              Unless you think that he and Jones are purposefully playing complementary games, in which Goff’s criticism of Jones and distancing of the Labour party from him comments (by boxing them in as “the Northern view”) are just a part of the strategy … which I think is a bit of a stretch.


              • Neil

                I might be being a bit too hard on Goff. But he looks to me to be trying to have it both ways. Labour has had plenty of time to prepare for this announcement and Goff doesn’t actually say he disagrees (or agrees) with Jones’ statements.

                At the very least Goff seems oblivous to the sort of inter- and intra-tribal animosities that Jones in playing to.

                Look at how quickly the myth has spread about this being the Maori Party flag. I’m sorry to say I believe Goff will be very pleased with that.

              • Lew

                Neil, I think he will be pleased about that, but I also think it’s not so much of a ‘myth’ — it is a prominent part of the māori party’s iconography. It is the predominant visual message from their creation story, the foreshore and seabed campaign; they sell the flags and bumper stickers and so on as a fundraiser at public events like the Parihaka International Peace Festival; MPs and other functionaries of the party can frequently be seen associated with it, and the party logo is strongly derived from it.

                That’s not to say it is their flag — a party can’t just claim a cultural artifact that easily — but it’s very strongly associated with them, and that association has been heavily cultivated. This is bog-standard political-symbolic branding — mainstream political parties (here, elsewhere, and most of all in the USA) attach their identity to a flag (national, historical, or otherwise) in order to propagandise it. Part of Ngāpuhi’s objection is undoubtedly because their own flag doesn’t have equivalent currency as a political symbol.


  7. Neil 7

    I would have thought that Hone was emphasing his activist roots with that photo rather than his links to the Maori Party.

    • snoozer 7.1

      it’s on the Maori party website and its just one example, at any Maori Party event the Te Tino Rangatiratanga flag is flying.

      Can you imagine Labour Party MPs with IWW or red and black flags behind them?… not that many come from that persuasion, more’s the pity

  8. A country’s flag represents the Nation. That’s why most nations have a distinct flag with both local and international laws relating to its use. When protesters in Iraq, Iran, Palestine and a myriad of other places burn the US flag they aren’t just setting fire to a colourful table-cloth. They are making a very clear statement of contempt and hostility. If someone somewhere feels strongly enough to burn or spit on the New Zealand flag would you just shrug and say, “it’s just a meaningless bit of cloth”?

    By flying a Maori flag alongside a New Zealand one those who support it are saying that they do not consider themselves part of New Zealand. That ‘Maori’ have an identity separate to ‘New Zealand’. And John Key thinks this demonstrates unity.

    Rednecks are now going to be able to burn and spit on the “Maori” flag to make a statement they could not before because Key’s idiotic decision, made for short-term political gain, acknowledges Maori as an identity separate from that of the nation of New Zealand, and it up as a target for racial hostility that could really set the racial divide in this country alight.

    • Pat 8.1

      “Rednecks are now going to be able to burn and spit on the “Maori’ flag…”

      Take two asprin and have a lie down.

    • Pascal's bookie 8.2

      By flying a Maori flag alongside a New Zealand one those who support it are saying that they do not consider themselves part of New Zealand. That ‘Maori’ have an identity separate to ‘New Zealand’. And John Key thinks this demonstrates unity.

      Only if you start by assuming that “New Zealand” doesn’t include tino rangatiratanga.

    • Blue 8.3

      I agree, Deus. I’m not sure I like the implication that Maori are not represented by the NZ flag, and the only flag that represents them is the TTR flag.

      That the NZ flag may become the ‘Pakeha flag’ and the TTR the ‘Maori flag’.

      Where does that leave the push to redesign the NZ flag?

  9. tc 9

    If this is the flag of the maori party shouldn’t it have a limo and trough as it’s emblem.

  10. Anne 10

    Very well put too tc ! Couldn’t be more appopriate.

  11. Anne 11

    Very well put too tc. Couldn’t be more appropriate.

  12. Lew 12

    Eddie’s post wasn’t about ‘which flag’ as opposed to ‘why care so much about the flag?’, and I think the fact that all the discussion is around ‘which flag’ gives us the answer to that: symbolism matters to people, in ways that material stuff doesn’t always (even though you might think it should).

    The whole ‘which flag’ thing is a bit deeper than partisan politics — although that’s part of it. It’s also very substantially about tribal politics, and the historical ‘state of origin’ idea which Ngāpuhi in particular hold due to their forbears’ establishment of the United Tribes of NZ. Whichever way you slice it, it’s political. To my mind an early indicator of John Key’s good political instinct was to devolve the decision of ‘which flag’ to Māori and have them fight it out. It’s worked; they are using national politics as a venue for tribal politics, and vice-versa. Turning on their own.


  13. Anne 13

    oops. sorry. something went a bit wrong.

  14. The New Zealand Flag and the New Zealand Ensign are the same.

    I assume you mean the New Zealand Red Ensign/New Zealand Civil Ensign?

    ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Civil_Ensign_of_New_Zealand.svg

    • Bright Red 14.1

      god you’re a pedant Graeme. Do you honestly think anyone here didn’t know what was meant by the Ensign? Do you think you’re so much smarter and have to show that off?

      [lprent: This morning I had to explain that a Bill was not an Act*. Never assume other peoples level of knowledge. Assume instead that this is also a forum for education.

      * I can just see a pile of pigs and trough jokes coming up *sigh* ]

      • Pete 14.1.1

        I don’t mind the pedantry so much – it’s often of use.

        At least it adds to the discussion (for definition’s sake), as opposed to the belittling comments – let’s not slip into personal attack mode when that’s not really the issue at hand

      • Do you honestly think anyone here didn’t know what was meant by the Ensign?


        Given its association with Waitangi, the Navy’s White Ensign has flown at Waitangi on occasion. It could have been that which was being referred to.

        • IrishBill

          I quite like Graeme’s pedantry as it’s good to have someone from the right actually argue facts here now and then.

  15. Surely the most compelling reason for using TTR is that it is an absolutely stunning flag? There aren’t many flags around the world that come close to the power and beauty of TTR.

    • Lew 15.1

      I have to admit this is one of the reasons I favour it. But not, in itself, a sufficient one. As a society we shouldn’t be making decisions of political identity on the grounds of aesthetic taste.


      • Tigger 15.1.1

        Really, so it’s right because it’s pretty? In that case we should slap a picture of a kitten on a sheet and call that our flag…

        • Lew

          Tigger, try reading the bit where I said “not, in itself, a sufficient one. As a society we shouldn’t be making decisions of political identity on the grounds of aesthetic taste.”

          It might help if you stopped bouncing on your tail and sat down, you know.


  16. Bill 16

    And so another affirmative symbol of resistance and hope is appropriated by the wmf colonial system and their bmf lackeys.


  17. gobsmacked 17

    It’s a smart (short-term) strategy from Key. And folks like Neil fall for it.

    There was a Hikoi in Auckland this year. Remember? It wasn’t for a flag. It was for Maori seats on the Super City. In other words, for real influence over the things that affect people’s lives – access to the decisions, to budgets, to power. That’s what people really wanted. That’s what they marched for. And not just Maori.

    Key said No. Rodney Hide won. (And FYI, Neil & co, Labour said Yes, to the Maori seats. Just as National have said, locally and nationally, No to Maori representation … whenever it matters. So naturally, Neil hates Labour instead).

    Key is smart enough to understand Sharples and the Maori Party. He knows they will roll over on any issue that Key wants to win. So he gives them something he couldn’t care less about.

    Welcome to the bizarre world of NZ politics today. Flag beats seats. So Labour are the bad guys. Go figure.

    Only a fool would be taken in by this. Sadly, there seem to be plenty of fools.

  18. torydog 18

    a tiny little payoff for maori……from a tiny little PM.

  19. Tigger 19

    Key is obsessed with everything being ‘relaxed’.

    “Dr Sharples yesterday indicated the decision was not universally popular in Cabinet.

    Mr Key this morning denied that, saying there had been “a very calm discussion” in Cabinet which lasted about five minutes.”

    This man is terrified of conflict!

    • Yeah Tigger I am starting to wonder is Key the leader of the National Party or the Legalise Cannabis Party.
      His take on text bulling is a bit over the top though, mind you he was keen to send other peoples sons of to war so go figure.

      I think his style and approach is probably best described using his own words “missing in action”.

  20. BLiP 20

    Thus far, National Ltd® has divided:

    – real Kiwis from the en-“titled”

    – teachers from their students and parent communities

    – beneficiaries from society

    – national parks into mines

    – critics into radicals

    – legal aid lawyers into troughers

    – etc

    . . . and the trolls here call this issue “divisive”!!

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